Draft 3 rewritten military personal statement. one more time

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andrewt86
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Draft 3 rewritten military personal statement. one more time

Postby andrewt86 » Mon Dec 16, 2013 8:40 pm

I appreciate everyone who has helped so far. If you could read through it once more?

For most of my life, the holidays was about family, pie and the true meaning of the season. Instead, while attending basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, I only got a 10 minute phone call and no pie. Luckily, the theme of true meanings was not lost on me.
To be honest, going into the military I had a leg-up. A tenure at Texas A&M as a member of the Corps of Cadets with multiple leadership positions, a masters degree and professional work experience had created a somewhat inflated ego. In addition, I was already slotted for Officer Candidate School. The plan: keep my head down and make it through. Drill Sergeant Thurmann had other plans.
Training soldiers is an excruciating task that includes building up those that need it, and deflating egos that cause complacency, in order to create the sense of urgency needed for military service. As a future officer, I was watched like a hawk and my training was the latter of the two. The day’s activity, just a few weeks into the program, included instruction on team bounding while firing at a target farther down-range. There is a particular method to the movement, but I was going through the motions: get behind the barrier, yell to my buddy, advance to the next barrier getting distracted in my own thoughts, and wondering when we would be eating dinner chow.
The technique I used to begin movement to my next position was lazy. It was faster to keep my rifle across my body, but while rising from a kneeling position to move, I was negligently pointing a loaded weapon toward my buddy behind the barrier in the lane next to me. I was warned sternly not to commit the violation again, and it wasn’t that I didn’t want to listen, I just didn’t have the sense of urgency soon bestowed.
I was blindsided. Tackled into the mud, hard, by an enraged Drill Sergeant Thurmann, who hated repeating himself. Embarrassed, all my buddies watching, the pedestal was knocked from beneath my feet. Not in the way that I had felt above making mistakes, but in that moment I realized how little of a joke this all was. How complacency will get your friend killed, and how your mind has to be focused on the standards set so that your soldiers know you are doing everything in your power to bring them home from whatever mission you might be tasked with. I picked myself up, retrained on the practice lane, and completed the training to standard, as if the enemy were firing back and I wanted to make sure my soldier returned safely. That was almost three years ago.
Now a combat engineer platoon leader, during my company’s most recent PT test, I was trailing one of my new privates during the two mile run event. Though he was a good runner, his occasional walking allowed me to catch up. As I passed, I calmly said “don’t walk”. After completing the run only 10 seconds after I crossed, he thanked me for my encouragement and motivation and told me he would have failed if it weren’t for me. As a leader, although it seems small, there are few greater moments, and a lot to read between the lines. Add bullets, add the enemy, apply other training scenarios. The principle is the same. The warrior ethos “I will never quit” means the same in all those situations. Private Williams doesn’t know my experiences, and doesn’t have to. He knows through simple gesture, that I understand the true meaning of the urgency required as an officer to lead soldiers in whatever manner is asked.
Looking forward to law school, my mistakes and experiences have shaped my drive and dedication; I have no doubt that my past will lend positively to my future profession.

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twobitrye
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Re: Draft 3 rewritten military personal statement. one more time

Postby twobitrye » Tue Dec 17, 2013 1:33 pm

I'll just crosspost this from what I said on your last draft since it still applies.

These kinds of personal statements are hard to write. Military experience can certainly lend itself to a positive narrative, but it can also consume the entire essay in a negative way. Regardless of how well you describe your training anecdotes, you have to keep in mind the goal of the essay. The only indications that I had that this essay had anything to do with law school was that it was given a cursory mention in the final paragraph and that it was posted on a law school forum. This, in my opinion, is the biggest issue with the current draft. Your experiences matter, but they need to molded into a narrative that answers the "why law school" question. As it stands now, you could replace the words "law school" in the final paragraph with just about anything.

This is a fundamental issue. Once you address this, I think a lot of other things will fall into place.

andrewt86
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Re: Draft 3 rewritten military personal statement. one more time

Postby andrewt86 » Tue Dec 17, 2013 4:51 pm

Thank you. That is very helpful. I was first going for the completely hands off approach since I've heard "your experience should completely define your ability to succeed in law / law school without having to say it".

but it makes sense to gear it *somewhat* to an interest in law, which now should be a little easier to entertain with the other part written.

Do you agree?

I apologize for not catching your response on my other post.

owlofminerva
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Re: Draft 3 rewritten military personal statement. one more time

Postby owlofminerva » Tue Dec 17, 2013 5:29 pm

First off, let me start by noting that I am a vet also and am now a law grad. Here are some points:

1) I completely disagree with the statement above that you need to answer "why law school." If your prompt specifically requires you to answer that question, then by all means you should. However, the personal statement does not need to answer that question and is designed for the adcomms to get a personal look at you in a perspective not easily picked up from your resume, numbers, and recommendations. If you have an interesting story about why you decided to pursue law, then it would be a great topic. However, do not get into the idea that you HAVE to address that question in your PS. For me, I didn't and I ended up at HLS with at least a LSAT slightly below their usual numbers. Instead, the theme of my PS was how my wartime experiences opened me up to better appreciating other cultures. I was raised in a family that really only cared about watching pro wrestling and staying in its little piece of the world without any concern or knowledge of other cultures; yet my deployments through talking through interpreters and counter-insurgency efforts led me to gain that appreciation. I closed it off with noting some irony in how something like war made me a better global citizen. Absolutely NOTHING in my application addressed why law school for me.

2) I'm not sure what the opening of your essay is doing for you. The central theme of your essay seems to be your ability to overcome complacency in your life, but you start out with a 10 minute phone call and the meaning of the holiday season. There really isn't a connection there. Similarly, the next part repeats portions of your resume; they will see the leadership positions and so on from that document. To have a good exciting opening--to the extent you want to keep this theme–I would recommend you start with your DS tackling you. Imagine an adcomm reading an essay with something to the tune of “After being tackled and thrown in the mud before in front of my friends, I learned that Drill Sergeant Thurmann did not like to repeat himself.” This grabs the reader’s attention and stays in line with the focus of your essay.

3) While I get that your point is about overcoming your younger ways of not focusing on what is important and complacency, I am not particularly sure it is a great theme; at least as you portray it. If I were an adcomm, I am not sure I would be excited about a person who basically told me they were very complacent in my school. Plus, the story you use to illustrate your overcoming this obstacle really doesn’t do much for you because it was just in a PT run the way its written actually makes me wonder if you came close to failing the test too considering he came in only 10 seconds after you and felt like he would have failed without your motivation. As a result, I would recommend finding a different theme or better stories. You are a combat engineer PL man, surely you’ve got some great leadership experiences you can share.

4) Make sure you avoid things like “PT.” While it seems like most people should know that stands for physical training, you just never know.

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twobitrye
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Re: Draft 3 rewritten military personal statement. one more time

Postby twobitrye » Tue Dec 17, 2013 6:49 pm

owlofminerva wrote:1) I completely disagree with the statement above that you need to answer "why law school." If your prompt specifically requires you to answer that question, then by all means you should. However, the personal statement does not need to answer that question and is designed for the adcomms to get a personal look at you in a perspective not easily picked up from your resume, numbers, and recommendations. If you have an interesting story about why you decided to pursue law, then it would be a great topic. However, do not get into the idea that you HAVE to address that question in your PS. For me, I didn't and I ended up at HLS with at least a LSAT slightly below their usual numbers. Instead, the theme of my PS was how my wartime experiences opened me up to better appreciating other cultures. I was raised in a family that really only cared about watching pro wrestling and staying in its little piece of the world without any concern or knowledge of other cultures; yet my deployments through talking through interpreters and counter-insurgency efforts led me to gain that appreciation. I closed it off with noting some irony in how something like war made me a better global citizen. Absolutely NOTHING in my application addressed why law school for me.


Interesting response. I should clarify that I didn't mean the essay should read as a direct response to the "why law school" question; rather it should answer that question organically. After reading his essay, I had no concept as to how these experiences linked to law in any way. Perhaps that's okay, but it seems important for a reader to be able to connect some of the dots. The experiences you mentioned, on the other hand, would lead me to the conclusion that you value diverse viewpoints. I can create a link from that to law in some way. Interestingly enough, my own statement followed a similar line, tying in my deployments as a translator. I chose to make a somewhat more overt connection to law after I discussed those experiences, but perhaps this is a matter of preference.

owlofminerva
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Re: Draft 3 rewritten military personal statement. one more time

Postby owlofminerva » Wed Dec 18, 2013 9:29 am

twobitrye wrote:
owlofminerva wrote:1) I completely disagree with the statement above that you need to answer "why law school." If your prompt specifically requires you to answer that question, then by all means you should. However, the personal statement does not need to answer that question and is designed for the adcomms to get a personal look at you in a perspective not easily picked up from your resume, numbers, and recommendations. If you have an interesting story about why you decided to pursue law, then it would be a great topic. However, do not get into the idea that you HAVE to address that question in your PS. For me, I didn't and I ended up at HLS with at least a LSAT slightly below their usual numbers. Instead, the theme of my PS was how my wartime experiences opened me up to better appreciating other cultures. I was raised in a family that really only cared about watching pro wrestling and staying in its little piece of the world without any concern or knowledge of other cultures; yet my deployments through talking through interpreters and counter-insurgency efforts led me to gain that appreciation. I closed it off with noting some irony in how something like war made me a better global citizen. Absolutely NOTHING in my application addressed why law school for me.


Interesting response. I should clarify that I didn't mean the essay should read as a direct response to the "why law school" question; rather it should answer that question organically. After reading his essay, I had no concept as to how these experiences linked to law in any way. Perhaps that's okay, but it seems important for a reader to be able to connect some of the dots. The experiences you mentioned, on the other hand, would lead me to the conclusion that you value diverse viewpoints. I can create a link from that to law in some way. Interestingly enough, my own statement followed a similar line, tying in my deployments as a translator. I chose to make a somewhat more overt connection to law after I discussed those experiences, but perhaps this is a matter of preference.


Fair enough. I think the connection to "why law" is still a little weak there, but I can see your point. I think the main point we are both getting at though is to find a trait about yourself that will reflect postively on you in the adcomm's eyes and then make an interesting essay about a personal experience to reflect that.

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encore1101
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Re: Draft 3 rewritten military personal statement. one more time

Postby encore1101 » Wed Dec 18, 2013 10:57 am

Also speaking as a (USMC) vet and a current 3L:

I agree with the two previous posters (especially the comment about the holidays/10 minute phone call into the main essay) and would add my opinions:
Personal statements more or less have the following themes:

1) I want to be a lawyer because <reason>;
2) I had a personal obstacle I had to overcome;
3) I have unique experiences that will increase diversity in the school.

I think you need to hone in on which theme you're trying to deliver. That will orient your reader in and guide him into what point you're trying to make, and more importantly, guide you into writing an effective essay. Reading it now, I see a couple themes, namely:

a) Your experience will provide a different perspective that most kids, straight outta undergrad, won't have, thus promoting diversity; or
b) You were confronted and overcame your own personal shortcomings (taking the easy way out), and you passed that along.

As a reader, I shouldn't have to guess into which one you're trying to convey. The majority of your essay seems to support (b), but the part at the end, with the PFT example, seems to indicate (a). If your theme is overcoming adversity, then the topic is weak, as it screams #firstworldproblems and is not particularly compelling. You'll be going up against people whose overcoming adversity topics will include deceased relatives, cancer battles, poverty, domestic violence issues, etc. Even from a military standpoint, the story is not particularly compelling. Props to you for not including some crazy war story, but surely there's a better example of leadership than a PFT that you could include? To that end, how does being tackled by a DS demonstrate to you how complacency kills? The immediate result from being tackled for doing things the lazy way is you learn to not do things the lazy way. It's like getting punched in the face and that made you realize that you should study harder.

Also, the ending doesn't really make sense to me. So Pvt. Williams was a good runner, but he was a turd that was willing to fail the PFT if you hadn't told him not to walk? Something as simple as "I saw my former self in Pvt. Williams -- a youth filled with potential, but without ambition to realize his capabilities." could do wonders.

On the other hand, if you're going for a "diversity" theme, the problem with this is that, while your perspective has changed as a result of the military, is it a perspective that is common in a student body? To some extent, maybe, but you're talking about a unique perspective on a narrow character trait, that may or may not be held by other people of the student body. The impact that this particular experience will promote diversity seems minimal. I think you would be better off going for a broader "leadership" statement, rather than focusing in on one particular character trait.

What I did for my essay was to talk about why I want/ed to go to law school: to become a prosecutor. I included my military experience as an example of my interest in law enforcement, while also having the secondary effect of talking about my leadership experience and diverse background, but I didn't explicitly say that and let the reader draw their own conclusions. You can talk about your military experience, but you need to make it an example, rather than the focal point.

My opinion is that you need to identify why you want to go to law school and use the military as an example of that desire. For example, if you were interested in civil/constitutional rights, you could say something like "In 20xx I took an oath to defend the United States Constitution and I want to continue upholding this oath even after leaving active duty." Then talk about what got you interested in civil rights, how the military has helped you appreciate the value of fundamental rights, etc. Even if you take the other approach and don't indicate why law, your personal statement should be more about why should you be admitted, or what can you do for the school and/or student body. It's great that you think you can do well, but to paraphrase JFK: "State not what your school can do for you, but what you can do for your school." Remember that Admissions committees' interests are in their school first.

Your essay is structured: "I was in the military. It taught me stuff. I'll do well in law school." My personal opinion is that it should be more along the lines of "I want to become a lawyer, because <reason>. Here's how the military either shaped that desire or is demonstrative of that desire."

Grammatically, watch for passive sentences like "To be honest, going into the military I had a leg-up." Instead, consider "To be honest, I had a leg-up going into the military."
Some sentences are awkward, like "The technique I used to begin movement to my next position was lazy" versus "I used a lazy technique to move to my next position." In some cases, passive voice can be used effectively, but not at the cost of clarity. Another example is "I was negligently pointing a loaded weapon. . ." (I'm resisting the urge to go into Drill Instructor mode about this) versus "I negligently pointed a loaded weapon. . ." "As a future officer, I was watched like a hawk and my training was the latter of the two." Latter of two what? Oh, either building up or deflating egos. That "hawk" phrase breaks up the continuity. If you say latter or former, it should come immediately after the two options you're referring to, not the second part of a compound sentence. "The day's activity, just a few weeks into the program," Is it important how long into the program you were?

Contractions should not be used. Obviously, this isn't a legal/law school essay, so some informalities are to be expected, but I think you can clean it up a big to make it a tighter essay.

To support what twobitrye said, look at your last sentence:
"Looking forward to law school, my mistakes and experiences have shaped my drive and dedication; I have no doubt that my past will lend positively to my future profession."

"Looking forward to medical school, my mistakes and experiences have shaped my drive and dedication; I have no doubt that my past will lend positively to my future profession."
"Looking forward to business school, my mistakes and experiences have shaped my drive and dedication; I have no doubt that my past will lend positively to my future profession."
"Looking forward to barber school, my mistakes and experiences have shaped my drive and dedication; I have no doubt that my past will lend positively to my future profession."
"Looking forward to clown school, my mistakes and experiences have shaped my drive and dedication; I have no doubt that my past will lend positively to my future profession."

Perhaps you don't need to explicitly say why you want to go to law school, but I think there should be something that connects your personal statement to law. Also, "lend positively" really understates the impact your military experience will provide.




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